Whether you celebrate the Reds from a starting date of 1869 (first full professional team), 1882 (first year in the American Association), or 1890 (first year in the National League), you have to be somewhat amazed by the longevity of the Cincinnati team. A 2019 version of a uniform from the past is great, but knowing what was happening when those uniforms debuted is history, and knowing your history is a big part of being a baseball fan, so we’ll try to cover the key events of the year.
The jersey’s sleeves return, and the blue highlight is gone. This would be the last season that the Reds would wear pinstripes until 1993, which is also the year the sleeveless-look would return.
Reds beat the NL Champ Dodgers, 6-1. Harper leads off, Rose bats 3rd, Perez plays 1st, and Deron Johnson at 3rd. All that would change, except Rose slotted in the third spot of the lineup. The 26-year-old Rose would hit .307/.370/.460, batting third in 530 PA’s.
Team’s Record that Season
87-75, 4th place, 14.5 GB
The Reds won 11 more games than the dismal 1966 season, holding first place until mid-June when an injury bug hit the team and they went into a slow and steady freefall.
How bad was it?
On June 19th the Reds were in first place, one month later they were 5 games behind, two months later 11.5 games behind, and 3 months later 14.5 games behind.
That’s how bad it was.
958,300 (7th of 10)
The Reds finished 40,000 shy of seeing a million fans in the park. If they had reached that goal it would’ve been the 5th time in the franchise’s history, and the first since 1965. The team had a less than stellar end of the season, which is not the best way to get your fans involved in the team’s future. Bad finishes can affect your bottom line. In the last 4 contests the team drew under 3,300 each night. The heightened racial tensions across the nation also affected the attendance of many teams who had stadiums in more industrialized parts of their cities. The fan base was increasingly suburban, and fewer were making the trip to the west side. The Reds drew a shade over 30,000 in two games at home in 1967 and both were double-headers.
“There’s a sign in the office of Bill DeWitt, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, which carries a quotation from baseball mastermind Branch Rickey.
‘Get the ballplayers’ it says, ‘The rest will take care of itself.’
The firing of Don Hefner as manager proved once again that it can take a little more.”
~ Dayton Dailey News 7/14/1966
Dave Bristol knew he didn’t have the talent to make it as a MLB player. At age 24 he was asked to manage the 1957 Bradford Beagles/Hornell Redlegs. He gladly took the position, climbing through the levels of the minor leagues in the Reds organization, and at age 31 he was managing their AAA club the San Diego Padres. During his tenure in the minors, he managed future major leaguers such as Tommy Helms, Johnny Edwards, Tommy Harper, Ted Davidson, Art Shamsky, Mel Queen, Cesar Tovar, Tony Perez, Lee May and Steve Boros. As the 1966 season started, Bristol was 33-years-old and the youngest coach in the National League. Following the All-Star Game, he became the youngest manager in the league, and the youngest Reds manager in forty years when he replaced Don Hefner.
“Dave drove you, but how could you resent it? All he wanted to do was win.”
~ Tommy Helms
A fighter, Bristol’s tenure in the minor leagues is fraught with stories of him doing battle on the field with other players, teams, and even umpires. Anything to win. Pete Rose claims Bristol had 6 different bunt plays when he played for him in Macon. As a Reds manager, Bristol tried just about everything offensively. He ran more than the league average, and moved players around the field in hope that he could find the perfect combination. His 3 full seasons as the manager in Cincinnati were not horrible, and in 1969 he won 89 games. However, Bob Howsam had seen enough, and decided it was time to get a manager of his own. Bristol found himself in Milwaukee in 1970, managing the recently moved Seattle Pilots. During the next ten years, he would continue to get jobs that seemed even more hopeless—managing for the Braves the year Ted Turner installed himself in the dugout, and later out in San Francisco for the 1980 Giants, his last gig managing in the big leagues. He’d later coach some for the Phillies and even the Reds again in 1989 and 1993.
1967’s roster is the crossroads of the early 1960’s Reds with the 1970’s Reds. Vada Pinson, Johnny Edwards, and Leo Cardenas were all under 30, yet represented the past. Players like Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Lee May were all emerging as bigger pieces of the team’s future. A very young team, the Reds featured two 19-year-old phenoms, Gary Nolan, a RH fireballer who went 14-8 with an ERA of 2.53 with 203 strikeouts, and Johnny Bench, whose brief appearance at the end of the season was a glimpse into the future of catching. Offensively the roster was stacked. Dave Bristol spent a good part of the season moving parts around as he tried to find an acceptable defense to support the plethora of bats on the bench. This was the year that Pete Rose was finally moved off of second base and found a home in the outfield. Deron Johnson started at third and was moved to first, and Tony Perez started at first and was moved to third. Lee May saw some time at first and even in the outfield. The pitching was anchored by Nolan and Maloney, with Ted Abernathy closing them out, if anything, the pitching, along with the defense, were the team’s greatest weaknesses. All in all, the team was talented and fun to watch, but not without warts.
Best Red Batter
Tony Perez .818 OPS
Skinny as a rail at age 14, Antansio Perez was the youngest player on a Cuban traveling team attached to the Havana Sugar Kings, a AAA franchise owned by sugar baron Bobby Madura. Also on the team were Chico Ruiz, Jose Tarabull and Diego Segui. All would end up in the major leagues.
Antansio went by the nickname “Tany” and once in the states it morphed into “Tony” which would be how Perez would be known for the remainder of his career. He first came up with the Reds in 1964 as a first baseman. It was Dave Bristol who thought he’d give Tony the full-time gig at third base in 1967, and for the next five years he would do his best to man the position, but would never master it.
Errors for Reds Third Basemen since expansion.
During that five-year span, Perez would hit .290/.350/.494/.844. 1967 was his first big season. After slamming 26 home runs and 102 RBIs, it was obvious that his bat would make up for his glove. It took the hard surface of the AstroTurf at Riverfront to convince the Reds that a future with Perez at third couldn’t be tolerated, and once Lee May was traded, he moved over to his original position at first.
Strictly a 2-position guy, Perez played one game at second base in 1967. He never appeared in the outfield for the team from 1964 to 1976.
Best MLB Batters
Richie “Dick” Allen and Bob “Roberto” Clemente
“I think Richie Allen could have been the greatest player ever. He struck out about 140 times in 1964, and if he would have just made contact instead of trying to hit 500-foot homers, he would have hit .400.”
~ Frank Thomas (50’s/60’s version)
“Richie Allen had a hard time in the minors at Little Rock. Ray Culp and a couple other players who played with him said the people were merciless to him. Bu he stuck it out and made the majors. He was an amazing talent. He had poor eyesight, which is why he struck out so much. But he was great hitter and baserunner and had a great throwing arm. But I would not have liked to manage him. He was a free spirit.”
~ Ed Roebuck
1967 Richie Allen
Dick Allen – 1 base every 2 PA’s
“There wasn’t a better player than Roberto Clemente. Clemente, Mantle and Kaline were the best all-around players I ever saw, and I think Clemente was the best.”
~ Coot Veale
Roberto Clemente – 1 base every 1.95 PA’s
“He had the greatest God-given talent I ever saw in baseball. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. He was a great hitter and an exciting player. When he got to Pittsburgh nobody could speak Spanish, so he was very quiet.”
~ Dick Grote
Best Red Pitcher
Other than the left-handed Herb Score, who was intimidating to all batters, Ted Abernathy was the toughest pitcher against right-handers I faced in the 50’s, in the majors or the minors. He’d give me fits. Most curve balls sink, but Abernathy threw underhanded and his ball shot up. Batting against him was like swatting flies.
~ Jim Fridley
John McGraw’s Giants were the first team to employ pitchers that compiled 15-plus appearances a year, when players such as Hooks Wiltse, Bill Malarkey and Jesse Winters regularly pitched as relievers only. Firpo Mayberry’s 55 relief appearances and no starts in 1925 was, for more than a decade, the torchbearer for this role. All this changed with Clint Brown and Ace Adams leading the way in the late part of the 1930’s and early 1940’s.
Regularly appearing in 60-plus games as relievers, they would pitch during any part of the game and could go both long and short. They were not driven to appear only in “Save Situations” or just clean innings. They would, on average, log over 100 innings pitched and would appear at any point of the game.
In 1950, Jim Konstanty of the Philles appeared in 74 games, 152 innings and went 16-7 with 22 saves, winning the MVP in the process. His success, plus the wider acceptance of reliver-use throughout the league, thrust the usage pattern of relievers into its next level of development. Relievers were no longer brought in only when a starter was in trouble; they were brought in prior to a starter imploding, and this began to push their appearances more to later innings in the game. One would assume this should have limited the amount of innings they pitched, because they were no longer being used as long men, however, relievers began to appear with less rest due to their prior workload being only an inning or two, as opposed to four or five. Coupled with the physical stress of appearing later in the game, and usually in close contests, the leading relievers of this era would have careers with ebbs and flows.
In 1965, Ted Abernathy became the first National League pitcher to throw in 80-plus games. A year later he was traded, and six months after that the Reds picked him up on waivers. Dave Bristol, who had played against Abernathy as a youth in North Carolina, fully endorsed this transaction.
In the late 1940’s, the accepted pitching style relied more on an overhanded approach, with a liberal use of the three quarters arm slot. Most youth pitchers emulated the motion of Bob Feller and Allie Reynolds—over the top and driving hard toward the plate. Ted Abernathy copied this motion as a teen until he suffered a shoulder injury and had to change his arm slot to continue pitching. Later, he injured it further and began to throw “Submarine Style”. Breaking in with the Senators in 1955, Abernathy had achieved limited success in the game and was more known for his unique style than his dominance. The Reds would be the fifth team of his career and the third in a year.
On Opening Day, he closed the game out with 2 innings pitched. He would top 2 IP thirty-one more times that season, appearing without rest 29 times. His 28 RSAA would lead the team (edging-out phenom Gary Nolan). He would set the Reds record for games pitched with 70. In 1968, he’d top that with 78. Dave Bristol certainly liked to use relievers in a way that would not continue in the next 15 years. He routinely leaned on Abernathy for two seasons and Abernathy would average 1.6 IP for every appearance. In 1969, Bristol would call on Wayne Granger an unbelievable 90 times (still the team record), also at a 1.62 IP rate. As the manager of the Brewers, he’d do the same with Ken Sanders, who over three seasons would compile 195 Games pitched, 320 innings thrown, which was an average of 1.64 IP every appearance. In the 1970’s, baseball would see the talisman of the Save Stat begin to drive the usage of closers to be more firmly defined and more tied to Win-situations, as opposed to Close-and-Late-situations.
Best Reds Season for Relievers RSAA
Best National League Pitcher
Jim Bunning, 41 RSAA (Runs Saved above Average)
“He doesn’t care if you like him or not. His nickname, as a player was “lizard.” He comes off as very cold, very arrogant.”
~ The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
Common statement: “Pitcher wins are useless.” Or, just maybe they are misleading, especially when tagged to random milestone numbers (20 wins, 300K’s), and especially if those random numbers factor into awards and accolades that, in hindsight, seem a tad dubious.
In 1957, at the age of 25, Jim Bunning started 30 games and won 20 as a Detroit Tiger. He had a 2.72 ERA, lost 8 contests, and finished the season with 40 RSAA. Bunning would pitch six more seasons in Detroit, topping 30 starts every season. He also did not win 20 games during that time, coming close once in 1962 with 19. He was traded to the Phillies after the 1963 season. Bunning left the Tigers with a 118-87 record and started over 250 games.
In Philadelphia, the hard throwing right hander found his stride. The first year, he threw the modern National League’s first perfect game on Father’s Day and proceeded to start over 39 games in 4 straight seasons, topping 280 innings each year. No wonder Jim Bunning wears a Phillies cap on his HOF plaque and not a Tiger cap. Just take a look at his numbers from 1964-1967; in that time he faced over 4800 batters, completed 60 games, and had a minuscule WHIP of 1.04.
Yet, some would say, “He didn’t win 20 games.” Jim Bunning did win 19 games each year from 1964-1966.
In 1967, each league decided to issue their own Cy Young Award for the first time. The best pitcher in the National League was Jim Bunning who had a 17-15 record for the Phillies, leading the league in Games Started, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts and Shutouts, with a 2.29 ERA and he led the league in RSAA with 40.
As for the Cy Young Award, San Francisco’s Mike McCormick won it handily; with 18 first place votes. Ferguson Jenkins and Bunning each received 1 vote for first place, or 5% of the vote.
In 1967 the National League leader in wins was Mike McCormick with 22.
It’s possible that McCormick might have been the 3rd or 4th best hurler on the Giants.
Wins can be deceiving.
Jim Bunning would be traded in the off-season and his career would begin a slow, yet steady retrograde and no, he would never win 20 games, or please everybody.
“There was leadership on the Phillies: Richie Allen, Johnny Callison, Tony Taylor. But most of the leadership was through example. Jim Bunning could have been more of a leader. He certainly had an attitude that was “How come we’re in first place?” instead of “Gee it’s great we’re in first place.”
~ Ed Roebuck
In Cincinnati, the city ranking and population are in steady decline. The urban population shrinks as the suburban population grows—overtaking the farmlands that surround the city. Hamilton County itself peaked in population in 1960, and hit its lowest ebb in 2011 when it only 800,621 lived in the county.
Team Media Sources
In the TV world of MLB, color has arrived in 1966. By season-end, 78% of the games were broadcast in color. Nationally, aside from the World Series and the All-Star Game, there were three Monday Night games and 25 Saturday afternoon contests presented by NBC on their “Game of the Week” franchise—and they paid baseball a tidy sum of $49.5 million for that privilege.
“I’ve had three owners, four general managers, a dozen managers in my Cincinnati years, I’ve been with Lord knows, how many ball players. It’s been a great experience. But, there comes a time when every player must realize his future is running a little short. That’s how it is with me. I’ve given everything that I could. I wish I could stay and help. I’m sorry my record wasn’t better, but I’m still proud of it.”
~ Joe Nuxhall announcing his retirement
One of the latest cuts in Bob Howsam’s first year as GM of the Reds involved ending Joe Nuxhall’s pitching career and introducing him to his next challenge, announcing in the booth with the ailing Claude Sullivan and Jim McIntyre. While Joe felt his way around the booth, McIntyre took on a heavier load at the mic as the summer progressed. Sullivan would die before the end of the year of throat cancer and the Reds would move their affiliation to WLW after years at WCKY, where Joe and McIntyre would pair together for the next two years.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. It is their last Stanley Cup finals appearance.
- A Cincinnati ownership group led by Paul Brown is issued a franchise in the AFL.
- The Monterey Pop Festival is held for 3 days.
- Chuck Jones’ last Tom and Jerry short, “Purr-Chance to Dream” is released.
Three albums from 1967 that you might have missed and need to revisit
- Something Else – The Kinks
- Younger than Yesterday – The Byrds
- I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin
1967 in Film
- Date Night – The Graduate, Barefoot in the Park
- Anti-Establishment – Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Dozen, The Trip, The Born Losers
- Social Issues – In the Heat of the Night, To Sir with Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
- For the Kids – Doctor Doolittle, The Junglebook
Technology in 1967 is highlighted by a convention in Manhattan where 117 exhibitors and 17,500 attendees came together for the very first Consumer Electronics Show. In 2019, the CES drew 4,400 exhibitors and 175,000 attendees. Hot items at the 1967 show seem quaint today, but back then items such as the “Pocket Cassette-Corder” (a bigger version of the Walkman) and GE’s 24 lb. portable color TV (billed as the “first under-$200 set ever sold.”) were revolutionary products in a world that was just beginning to see portable typewriters, calculators, and green screen computers.
- Kurt Cobain (d. 1994)
- John Smoltz
- Louis C.K.
- Julia Roberts
- Vanilla Ice
- J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist (b. 1904)
- Crew of Apollo 1 (killed in launch pad fire)
- Roger Chaffee, American astronaut (b. 1935)
- Gus Grissom, American astronaut (b. 1926)
- Ed White, American astronaut (b. 1930)
- Jimmie Foxx, American baseball player (b. 1907)
- Woody Guthrie, American folk musician (b. 1912)
1967 was the first year of the new ownership group that would move the Reds into the 1970’s. Only the second ownership group to run the team in 33 years, the Dale group promised to be more modern in their approach to the game and the business of baseball than Bill DeWitt had been. Only 5 years after purchasing the team from the Crosley Foundation, DeWitt’s tenure unraveled quickly when, during the first week of 1966, long time local scribe Earl Lawson wrote, “Cincinnati is apparently ready to put its money where its mouth is. That new stadium about which the city has done nothing but talk for years, may soon become a reality-thanks to the relentless prodding of Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes.”
Bill DeWitt claimed he would sign a contract to play anywhere the group decided. He did, however, place a caveat that the location would have a great impact on the length of the lease he’d sign. DeWitt himself preferred a suburban location with easy highway access and ample parking. There was also talk of a domed stadium being built in the Blue Ash area by a small group of local businessmen. The committee recommended an area near Union Terminal, but decided on a Riverfront location by mid-February. DeWitt still preferred a suburban location and harbored worries about flooding, access, and as always, parking, “They expect people to park in garages and ride busses to the park. The Governor is running for reelection this year and that’s why he’s so active. He’s leading the press around by the nose on this football franchise.” The stadium issue was final as far as the city was concerned, however Bill DeWitt didn’t seem as happy as everyone else.
This unhappiness would continue to be the theme of the 1966 season. Opening Day, the biggest sports holiday in the city, was rained out for the first time in over 50 years. The rain didn’t subside and the Reds opened the season on the road for the first time since they were in the American Association in the 19th Century. Meanwhile over in the American League, ex-Red Frank Robinson got off to a tremendous start and was the talk of the American League and all of baseball. An extensive story in Sports Illustrated that June outlined many of the issues facing Dewitt that season—his dual role of owner/GM, his age, lifelong connection to the game, and his reputation as being tough, opinionated and somewhat tight-fisted. All of these issues factored into the larger story, the new stadium project. Nestled in the article was this nugget, “DeWitt has told the city fathers that the Reds would in the new stadium wherever it was built. But the length of the lease he will sign would depend on the location.” He later mused, “I think a private stadium is within the realm of possibility.”
With the city on the verge of financing a new stadium, the need for the Reds to be a permanent resident was evident. Comments concerning other plans for the team worried not only fans but politicians.
On December 16th, 1966, Bill DeWitt surprised both the fans and the city when he sold the Reds to a group of local businessmen led by Francis Dale the president and publisher of the local morning paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer. The price was $7 million, $2.5 million more than DeWitt paid in 1962—a tidy profit for DeWitt and his backers, and a clear road to a new riverfront stadium for the city and the Reds.
You can read more about the throwback uniforms and history around each throughout the season right here.
What a walk back through history, Brian. I remember reading Earl Lawson’s columns as a young boy. A very young boy, thank you very much.
Oh, what I would give to have a Havana Sugar Kings jersey.
Great article. Thanks.
Very good work again, Brian. Chuck Jones was indeed The Man for Tom and Jerry.
A lot of players didn’t like Earl Lawson. He reported the games and avoided promoting anyone. If you played poorly, he would call it out. Ask Hal McCoy about Earl. He was a top notch reporter.